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Abstract

This thesis undertakes a dominantly narrated dissonance between Blackness and notions of place, citizenship, and arrival in migration discourse by exploring ways to conceive of Black migration without reliance upon empire and the nation-state. Embedded Life is an imaginative conceptualization of Black movement that attempts to listen and join in on deeply embedded desires, dreams, and insistences for Black life that are vibrant yet buried underneath outer conceptions and impositions of arrival centered migration discourse (which is narrowed here as the attainment of citizenship, a sense of nationhood, and financial mobility as a result of migration). It argues the possibility that Black movement is mistranslated, misarticulated, and wrongly situated within discourses of migration which fixate on arrival within borders (especially western borders) by situating accounts of contemporary Black migration within a larger breadth of Black movement. It attempts a departure from “arrival narratives,” in which Black movement is believed to end or finish upon admission and entry into the state, and seeks to disrupt teleologies related to arrival which suggest firstly that contemporary Black migration is unrelated to the forced movement of stolen African peoples through the Middle Passage, and secondly that Black migration is solely a matter of desired arrival within nation-state and empire. Drawing upon both Migration studies and Black studies, as well as sociological, historical, and personal accounts of Black migration, this thesis contends with the impossibilities of arrival for Black migrants, and delineates how expressions of desires for life from Black migrants (which are incorporated and selectively used within arrival narratives) are too easily conflated with a life maintained by the state and its borders, rather than held with consideration that perhaps more indeterminate and alternate figurations of life are being brought forth in Black migrancy. Embedded life is introduced as a theoretical framework that attends to the insistences and formulations of Black life that are strategically mis-narrated in the context of Black migration, and urges toward sensing rather than explicating Black movements' gestures for a life outside of borders and the state, a life that is more-than-arrival.

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